It took heart failure and a stroke to reaffirm my suspicions that men are essentially stupid, and intelligent women should be running the world. My wife had seen the signs building long before the state of my health reached emergency proportions. How many men have heard their loving partners say, “Have you seen your doctor lately?” or “I think you need to go for a check-up.” Men dismiss these early warnings as an assault on their invulnerability. And an only child male, supremely independent as I am, is even more difficult to advise.
When I finally said, “I think I need to go to the doctor,” it was almost too late. The only things open were the hospital Emergency wards. The first one we went to admitted me immediately into cardiac care. At 3:00 am the next morning, they called my wife to gather our family together to come down and say their goodbyes. It was that close.
When I shocked everyone by reviving, they sent me by ambulance to the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre at Toronto General Hospital where I spent the next 28 days. For the first two weeks, I was bed-ridden in Intensive Care with tubes on IV drips coming out of both arms and a plethora of chest stickers wired to monitors. Then I graduated to the care of the Cardiac team, who spent the next two weeks monitoring my cocktail of heart medications. They got me out of bed and walking the corridors, stressing the need to get mobile and begin mild exercise every day – slow and steady.
When the team finally determined that the blood clots had cleared from my heart and lungs, they shocked my heart to stop and then shocked it to start again, When I woke up (to the smell of burning chest hair), they told me that my heart was back in regular sinus rhythm. Best news ever! No transplant, no artificial heart, no more excessively rapid atrial fibrillation. A few days later I was cleared to go home.
My wonderful, exhausted wife, who had spent the entire month of August driving back and forth from Caledon to Toronto General, looked at me and said, “The Phoenix, rising from the ashes. You’ve been given a second chance.” Now I had to earn it.
The primary culprit in this health decline was stress. Stress over financial concerns that I had been trying to deal with by myself, and fighting a losing battle. I wonder how many other retired, economically illiterate males fall into the same category, hiding their weaknesses and becoming more isolated day by day. According to recent news reports, quite a few. There are an increasing number of retirees and seniors falling into high debt. With that must come the stress of trying to successsfully meet all of the needs of our families, and realizing we are falling short, My advice to all stubborn senior males is to share the burden with your loved ones, work out the solutions together, as we are doing now, and get rid of the depression. I am certain that there is a direct link between an overload of the stress hormone, cortisol, and heart failure. It is not worth preserving the myth of male omnipotence. Find humility.
And listen to our partners when they tell you you’re not looking so well. They may, after all, be just a little more perceptive than we are.
Skid Crease, Caledon